July 1987

News

Army Labs Cut Back Basic Research
Army Labs Cut Back Basic Research
Editor's note: The U.S. armed services operate a network of in-house laboratories to pursue basic research that fits the mission of each service. In the months to come The Scientist will offer a glimpse of these little-known but well-respected facilities and the challenges they face. The first two articles in the series deal with the Army's labs. ADELPHI, MD.—"As Bell Labs is to AT&T, the laboratory command is to the Army Materiel Command," says Ira Marcus, associate director for engineer
Animal Testing Dispute Splits NAS Panel
Animal Testing Dispute Splits NAS Panel
WASHINGTON—Nearly two years after it was convened, a National Academy of Sciences panel is searching desperately for the middle ground in a bitter debate about the use and treatment of laboratory animals. A minority report, rare in an NAS study, seems likely to emerge from the 15-member panel, which has heard scientific discussion give way to personal attacks in the course of its nine meetings. The latest spark stems from a Wall Street Journal editorial relating an account of an alleged co
Director Out As Sigma Xi Ponders Role
Director Out As Sigma Xi Ponders Role
BOSTON—The executive director of Sigma Xi, one of the nation's oldest and most prestigious scientific societies, has been forced out in a bitter dispute over the proper role of the organization. C. Ian Jackson, hired in 1981 as an outsider with a new vision for the 101-year-old honorary society, was asked to leave June 19 by the organization's board of directors. The board was scheduled to meet last weekend to discuss plans for choosing his successor. "I am not leaving voluntarily," Jackso
Third World Seeks Place for lts Journals
Third World Seeks Place for lts Journals
HAMBURG, WEST GERMANY—A new journal in a developing country must find a way to convince local scientists that it is a suitable home for their research work without setting standards that will scare them away. Delegates to the Fifth International Conference of Scientific Editors discussed that problem and others at a recent meeting here organized by the International Federation of Scientific Editors' Associations (IFSEA). Participants proposed various ways to encourage efforts by journal ed
New Canadian Magazine Folds
New Canadian Magazine Folds
OTTAWA—Insufficient circulation has closed Canada's only English-language general science magazine and its French sister publication after four issues each. Science and Technology Dimensions and Dimensions Science et Technologie made their debuts in January after a National Research Council publication was turned over to Science and Technologie Mondex Inc. of Montreal. Publication was suspended after the May issue. The government publication, begun in 1969 and split in two in 1983, had a f
Mexican Researchers Decry Lack of Support
Mexican Researchers Decry Lack of Support
MEXICO CITY—A recent decision by Mexico's federal government to boost R&D spending has failed to stem growing dissatisfaction in the scientific community here over the lack of public support for science and technology. The government said last month it is diverting 5 billion pesos ($3.8 million) from other public programs to the National Science and Technology Research Council (CONACYT). Half of the supplemental funds are to be used for scientific research and half for technological develo
Survey Challenges U.K. Brain Drain
Survey Challenges U.K. Brain Drain
LONDON—Fears of a brain drain of British scientists have been quieted by a new survey from the Royal Society. Many researchers have pointed to the success of overseas recruitment—with U.S. institutions seen as the chief culprits—as a consequence of continuing tight research budgets in British labs. But the Royal Society was unable to find figures to back up the often politically motivated rhetoric. Overall, its report produces a picture of a global intellectual market from whic
Lobby Skips Australia's Election
Lobby Skips Australia's Election
SYDNEY—Scientific issues played virtually no role in Australia's federal election earlier this month, dashing scientists' hopes that the campaign would focus public attention on policy and funding questions and raising doubts about the effectiveness of the country's new science lobby. The formation last year of the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies (FASTS) had raised expectations that scientists' voices would be heard when the political dice were next thrown.
Genentech Patent Voided
Genentech Patent Voided
LONDON—Genentech's British patent on the blood clot-dissolving tissue plasminogen activator (TPA) has been revoked after a three-week trial that featured some of the world's leading biotechnologists. But High Court Justice John Whitford was not persuaded by the assertion of Nobel laureate Paul Berg of Stanford that Genentech had a monopoly on the skills needed to make TPA by recombinant DNA techniques when it filed its patent application in May 1983. Biochemist WJ. Brammar of the Universit
Canadian Chemical Blueprint Condemned
Canadian Chemical Blueprint Condemned
QUEBEC CITY—A proposed blueprint for Canadian chemical research has been condemned by two of the organizations that commissioned it. The committee that wrote the report said Canadian academic research compared unfavorably with work done in the United States. It recommended a more selective funding structure that would bolster top-notch programs and allow them to compete internationally. It acknowledged that the policy would hurt smaller departments, whose faculty would receive fewer, small
Rutgers Program Helps Minority Grad Students
Rutgers Program Helps Minority Grad Students
NEW YORK—Olatunde Branche, a 31-year-old zoology student at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn., was ready to abandon his quest for a Ph.D. because of the cost. Then a professor showed him a magazine advertisement that described a minority fellowship program at Rutgers University. Four years later, Branche is within a few months of receiving his doctoral degree. "That program provided me with the money and the incentive," said Branche, who came to the United States seven years ago
Irish Bolster Applied Research
Irish Bolster Applied Research
DUBLIN—The Irish government, after months of delay and speculation, has committed itself to a science and technology development program with a special emphasis on biotechnology. Although the Irish government is in the midst of making sharp cuts in public spending, Prime Minister Charles Haughey said this new allocation to develop science and technology "will be a permanent feature of the annual budget." Ireland spends about $600 million annually on science, a significant sum for a country
Japan Prepares for Growth
Japan Prepares for Growth
TOKYO—A scientific work force five times larger than at present should be well along on developing a Japanese space shuttle and a manned space station by the year 2000, according to a panel studying the country's space program. That vision is one of several recommmendations in a report to Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone by the Space Development Committee. It is meant as a guide for government ministries as they seek budget approval for specific projects in the years ahead. Japan's space p
Space Research Advances on 3 Continents
Space Research Advances on 3 Continents
WASHINGTON—Experimenters starved for spaceflight opportunities may find all the lab space they need in Earth orbit if a small Colorado company is able to turn the space shuttle's giant external fuel tanks into privately owned orbiting science facilities. Next week a group of 40 scientists, government officials and engineers will attend a closed workshop in Boulder to take a first crack at defining science requirements for the "Labitat," as the External Tank Company (ETCO) has labeled its p
Dutch 'Lack Vision, Courage'
Dutch 'Lack Vision, Courage'
AMSTERDAM—The Dutch space program, once a leader in scientific research on many fronts, has been weakened to the point of ineffectiveness, according to scientists and aerospace industry officials. The chief cause, they say, is a reluctance by the government to adopt a long-range plan and commit the resources necessary to achieve it. "The Dutch government lacks vision and courage," said Karel Wakker, professor of space technology at the Technical University in Delft. "In most European count

Commentary

Democratizing Science Advice
Democratizing Science Advice
President Reagan's science advisers have served as advocates of the administration's science policies, rather than as objective conduits for communication between the president and the science community.

Letter

What Chemists Do To Explain Their Work
What Chemists Do To Explain Their Work
In Hugh D. Crone's article "Chemists Must Explain Their Work Better" (The Scientist, May 4, 1987, P. 24), he states that "chemists should strive much more vigorously to present their professional image to the public and to offer their services as sources of chemical information," a statement with which I heartily concur. I take issue, however, with his statement "I cannot think of any chemical, biochemical or toxicological society that issues news releases on topics of current interest. If they
Not Only Arrogance, But Deception
Not Only Arrogance, But Deception
Were there not serious ethical, political and scientific issues raised by genetic engineering and the release of human-altered organisms into the environment, Thomas Jukes' response (The Scientist, May 18, 1987, p. 13) could be dismissed as merely more of the arrogant, contemptuous attitude shown by many scientists toward the general public. But in fact there are real issues involved, and so his petulant outburst and repetitive assertions of complete safety involve not only arrogance, but decept
A Few Questions About Frostban
A Few Questions About Frostban
Thomas Jukes' article "The Nonsense About Frostban" (The Scientist, May 18, 1987, p. 13) brings to mind many of the arguments that were used to promote pesticides and nuclear power. Indeed, it would not surprise me if Jukes was a supporter of those technologies. I would like to ask a few questions, and ask Jukes to reply. 1) Can one be anti-technology and not anti-science? 2) If Frostban is perfectly safe, why the test? 3)Why is the guy in the picture wearing the funny suit? Frostban is perfectl
To Err is Not Divine
To Err is Not Divine
Ian Stewart, in the June 29, 1987 issue, advocated "Selling Mathematics to the Media" (p. 18). His enthusiasm led him to remark that "many mathematicians act as if putting an error into print is the End of the World. . . one need not. . . be too fearful of the odd blunder in print. The readers don't treat all this stuff as gospel, chaps." I commend his zeal, but protest such a cavalier attitude about the principle of veracity in publication. Occasional error is unavoidable, but should be experie

Opinion

Too Much Theory Ruins Museums
Too Much Theory Ruins Museums
In the early 19th century, most natural history and science museums were lit-tie more than cabinets of curiosities whose purpose was to delight and amaze people with the extravagant and the bizarre. In both the United States and Europe, little effort was made to organize the collections in any sort of coherent fashion; stuffed dugongs often sat next to meteorites and mastodon bones. These private cabinets full of oddities and the exotic were mostly a form of amusement for the wealthier classes.
The NRC Doesn't Cut Corners on Safety
The NRC Doesn't Cut Corners on Safety
The excerpts from the book Safety Second by the Union of Concerned Scientists about the activities of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that appeared in the June 15, 1987 issue of The Scientist (p. 15) deserve comment. At the outset, it should be noted that the Union of Concerned Scientists is hardly an unbiased observer of the NRC. Since its formation, the organization has been critical of our agency and how we carry out our responsibilities. Nevertheless, we welcome constructive criticism and
New Shock Horror Probe
New Shock Horror Probe
From today's edition of The Daily Beast: Proximity to wood causes countless cases of hyperactivity in Britain every year, according to a sensational report published yesterday by the 'whistle-blower' Mother Earth Consortium. Wood may also lead to other 'biohazards' that have not yet been identified. 'Our findings show,' said Dr. Mark Weinberg, bullish leader of the new Nader-style lobby group, 'that wood should be abandoned immediately as a constructional material. Houses, furniture and pencils
The Plight of Academic 'Marginals'
The Plight of Academic 'Marginals'
Major universities employ many Ph.D.s in academically marginal positions. Neither postdocs nor full-fledged faculty, these scientists populate an academic never-never land made possible by the availability of research support and made miserable by the difficulty of obtaining such support and by their ambiguous status in the institution. These scientists have such titles as "assistant research anatomist" or search associate," although some carry the usual academic titles along with the unusual re
Fang Lizhi: Science in the Party's Shadow
Fang Lizhi: Science in the Party's Shadow
Astrophysicist Fang Lizhi, one of China's most outspoken advocates of democracy, was vice president of the University of Science and Technology in Hefei during the student demonstrations that started there last December and spread to other cities, including Beijing. In January, Fang was dismissed from his university post and shortly thereafter was expelled from the Communist Party. Accused of inspiring the student unrest and "attempting to depart from the socialist road, "Fang was sent back to B

Perspective

A Liberating Aerial Bombardment
A Liberating Aerial Bombardment
In November 1939, shortly after the outbreak of World War II, I was solving trematode life cycles in the Marine Biological Station at Plymouth. Before the fighting began I had received an impressive-looking form from the Royal Society asking for details of my qualifications, and announcing that as a scientist I was placed in a reserved occupation and could not volunteer for any form of national service should hostilities commence. I therefore continued with my work (I had already qualified as a

Technology

Lab Safety: Naked Came the Chemist
Lab Safety: Naked Came the Chemist
Life in general is not without its hazards, but contemporary opinion is united in the belief that safety in the workplace is of paramount importance. A manager can always ensure absolute safety in any workplace by closing it down. Many managers are now doing just that because some of the physical safety precautions that have been imposed on them make their work slower and more difficult and weaken competitiveness—sometimes for very questionable gains in safety. For example, one of my forme

Books etc.

A Study for Sovietologists, Not Scientists
A Study for Sovietologists, Not Scientists
The Communist Party and Soviet Science. Steven Fortesque. The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1987. 234 pp. $28.50. Now when Gorbachev's perestroyha (restructuring) is presented to the public as a necessity brought upon the Soviet Union by scientific and technological progress outside the country, it is natural to ask why Soviet science, which has the world's largest infrastructure and personnel, performed so poorly that it became nearly irrelevant, particularly in many highly sophist
Blazing the Trail to CERN, 1949-54
Blazing the Trail to CERN, 1949-54
History of CERN: Vol. 1. Launching the European Organization for Nuclear Research. Armin Hermann, John Knge, Ulnke Mersits and Dominique Pestre. North-Holland, The Netherlands, 1987. Distributed in the United States and Canada by Elsevier Science Publishers, New York. 600 pp. $110. Since World War II, large laboratories have played an increasingly important role in hosting the world's largest and most expensive basic research projects. For example, the mammoth projects in large laboratories ha
From Biology, Morality
From Biology, Morality
The Biology of Moral Systems. Richard D. Alexander. Aldine Publishing Co., Hawthorne, NY, 1987. 301 pp. $34.95 HB, $16.95 PB. Richard Alexander, a distinguished sociobiologist with a substantial record of research accomplishments, believes that the foundations of human morality lie in evolutionary biology. In The Biology of Moral Systems, he takes issue with the moral philosophers and theologians who ignore it. Not only have our bodies been shaped by evolutionary forces; our minds and souls hav
Problem-Solving on Expert Systems
Problem-Solving on Expert Systems
Research and Development in Expert Systems III M.A. Bramer, ed. Cambridge University Press, New York, 1987. 227 pp. $39.50. Expert systems are computer programs that incorporate domain-specific human expertise. They grew out of the fields of artificial intelligence and software engineering, with the intention of offering a methodology for developing software capable of addressing the markets' increasing needs. By shortcutting some of the fundamental goals of artificial intelligence and softwar
The Latitudes of Art and Science
The Latitudes of Art and Science
Art and Cartography: Six Historical Essays. David Woodward, ed. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1987. 249 pp. $65. From a scientific perspective, a map represents the distillation of all available scientific data about an area into a single graphic representation. From an artistic perspective, a map communicates philosophical ideas or feelings. Cartography represents a superb example of the interface between art and science. Art and Cartography, a collection of six essays by humanist
Machine Translation Resurrected
Machine Translation Resurrected
Machine Translation: Theoretical and Methodological Issues. Sergei Nirenburg, ed. Cambridge University Press, New York, 1987. 350 pp. $49.50 HB, $17.95 PB. Machine translation was proposed by Warren Weaver in 1947 for the newly developed computer. The proposal was pursued because language—a system of symbols usually called signs—seemed manipulable in the same manner as the system of number symbols. During World War II, moreover, translation was a major concern for military and diplo
'What Ifs' for America's Research Consortia
'What Ifs' for America's Research Consortia
Perhaps at no time since the Second World War has there been such an emphasis on the rapid transfer of research findings to development. The 1980s have seen the birth of dozens of research consortia designed to quicken the pace of technological development in the United States. Coming from a wide array of businesses and varied academic institutions, these R&D consortia are seen by many as the answer to the United States' regaining the lead it has lost in technological competitiveness. In The New

So They Say

So They Say
So They Say
Verbatim excerpts from the media on the conduct of science. Frank Press On Social Science Science is not a body of facts and theories, but a way of considering problems and viewing the world. Scientists observe phenomena, develop hypotheses, conduct experiments, analyze findings and generate knowledge. They may measure gamma rays or public opinion, but the process is the same. It is this process that is science. Social scientists contribute enormously to important national issues, and all of us&

Happenings

Happenings
Happenings
Carl M. Mansfield, professor and chairman of radiation therapy and nuclear medicine at Thomas Jefferson University, has been elected president-elect of the American Radium Society. The new president is Morris J. Wizenberg, attending radiation therapist and head of the division of radiation oncology at Mercy Health Center in Oklahoma City. The 800-member ARS, founded in 1916, is an interdisciplinary society of cancer physicians dedicated to promoting cancer research and encouraging cooperation an

Profession

Returning to Science: It Can Be Done
Returning to Science: It Can Be Done
In the late 1970s, the National Science Foundation sponsored a series of career facilitation programs designed to retrain women with scientific degrees who had spent several years out of the laboratory while raising families. I recently 'undertook a follow-up study of 75 women who participated in one of those programs—a year of special intensified course work in chemistry or toxicology at American University. The general conclusion was that the program was very successful in ensuring job p